Playing ball or going on vacation?

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The UVU softball team went to Hawaii Feb. 26-28 to compete in the Bank of Hawaii Invitational. They played six games, three against Portland State and three against the University of Hawaii. The results weren’t quite what the team hoped for as they were winless on the trip.

But this isn’t about the outcome of the games during that trip. It’s more about what was posted on Instagram and Twitter by the players during their trip that concerns me. In a picture on the Instagram account of a freshman infielder, there is a picture of her doing a handstand on the beach the day of the first game in Hawaii. Later on the various Twitter accounts of the athletes, there are pictures of some of the players paddle boarding on a surfboard. Looking at these pictures raises a few questions. First, if I were on a team that lost 99 games out of 139 in over two years, should I really be out on the beach having a good time or should I be watching film, taking batting practice, and doing things to get better? Also, according to Associate Athletic Director of Finance and Business Operations Nikki Scott, 31 percent of the funds the athletic department receives from student fees go toward travel. Why should the students foot the bill for these athletes to have fun and basically have a vacation?

Athletes on other teams at UVU have said that when they go on trips they practice, eat, study, and play the game. They don’t get the opportunity to go sightseeing or hang out at the beach if you will. So why is the softball team so privileged?

I understand that people will argue that because of the weather, scheduling a home contest makes it tough during this time of year. They will also argue that UVU was invited to go there and it’s not every year they get to go to the Hawaiian Islands. But the thing to remember is that it wasn’t a vacation; it was to compete in softball. Is it really fair to the students who are paying for the travel for the softball team to go out and have a good time rather than focus on softball?

In an interview prior to the season beginning UVU head coach Nikki Palmer said that when they go on the road, “it is all about ball and focusing on getting the job done.” And that is the way it should be. Posting pictures of the team playing on the beach or in the ocean during one of those road trips doesn’t look good, especially when the team doesn’t win even one game during that trip.

I love sports. I love watching them, covering them, and writing about them. To clarify, I want to see the softball team play well. But when athletes go on a trip to play softball or baseball or whatever sport, that’s what it should be about, especially if you’re not the one paying for it. Let’s not forget that students, through their student fees, pay for the travel on road trips. Is it fair for the students to foot the bill for a trip when the main focus might not be on softball? It may be time to re-focus on what the real purpose of those road games are.

Update: The tweets have since been deleted and we have been blocked from the accounts at the current time.